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OKC Thunder 2011 Free Agent Targets; Who Would Fit Best?

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Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk sets aside his top 25 free agents that will be available in the upcoming off-season. Everything of course needs to be tempered by the impending labor conflict, of course. If the outcome of that negotiation goes as I expect, there will be a downward push on the demand for talent, which will essentially price the cheaper assets (players) right out of the market.

Anyway, we can still evaluate Mr. Helin's list and see what options might be available if the Thunder were so inclined to pursue one or more. Some of these guys are enticing, but I cannot shake the feeling that the Presti is like the guy who walks into the dealership with plenty of cash and trade-in value in hand, but doesn't really want to buy the tricked out Mercedes.

Start Your Planning Early, the Top 25 Free Agents of 2011 | ProBasketballTalk

Be sure to read through the list because I'm sure you could make an argument for a lot of these guys, but I took a closer look only at the guys who would fill the Thunder's most pressing needs. I've included their most recent guaranteed salary in parenthesis, despite the fact that it probably has little to no bearing on the future.

What do the Thunder need?

  • Interior post presence
  • Outside shooting
  • Defensive specialist

Marc Gasol ($3.5M) - He's a solid seven footer of whom the Thunder just got another taste. He's still young (26) and not nearly as heralded as his older brother Pau Gasol was coming into the league. Marc is not a great rebounder (7 per) but he does show some promise scoring around the basket. He is restricted though, so to pull him away, a hefty price tag will have to be attached to him. Gasol at $7 million per year isn't bad; at double that? Better look elsewhere.

Nene Hilario ($11.6M) - Nene has been well compensated over the years for being an undersized center who seems like he should post better stats than he does. Never the less, he'll be looking for another max deal. He is a nice, strong power forward. He wasn't worth the last contract, and he won't be worth the next one, either. Pass.

David West ($7.5M) - The Hornets have kept West at a bargain price for far too long. He is an excellent player who can score and rebound with any big man in the league. If the Thunder could have had him at his current rate, that'd be considered a steal. That said, there's no way his price tag isn't going up by at least 75%. West would be a great addition, but I don't think the Thunder will have cap space after Westbrook gets paid.

Tayshaun Prince ($11.1M) - Here is an interesting player who has proven to be an excellent perimeter defender and clutch performer (he was an important piece to the Pistons' championship run). He's 30 years old now, so while his current price tag is steep, there may be room for some downward negotiation. He is essentially Thabo Sefolosha who isn't afraid to shoot the ball. $11 million is too much, but $7 million? That's a pretty good upgrade.

Tyson Chandler ($12.8M) - Chandler, despite his injury history, has proven himself to be a valuable piece to any team that wants to play sound defense. I agree with Helin though that Mark Cuban isn't going to let him get away, and if he did, it would only come at a prohibitive cost.

Kendrick Perkins ($4.4M) - I am curious to see a) whether the Celtics will let him walk, since his absence in last year's finals proved how important he is to a championship contender; and b) how he will be valued by the rest of the league, post-injury. I like Perkins a lot, and there is no doubt that he would cure much of what ails the Thunder. What I'd worry about most though is not how much he'd cost, but the overall effect he'd have on the style of game the Thunder seek to play.

DeAndre Jordan ($0.9M) - He currently plays along side Blake Griffin, so it would make sense for him to stay there. However, given that Donald Sterling is a miser (and that's the kindest word you could say about him) I would guess that the right kind of deal could lure Jordan away with a well placed restricted free agent offer. A sign and trade for this kind of guy would make a ton of sense. He's young too (22), so he would fit well into the Thunder's ethos.

Carl Landry ($3.0M) - Although currently stuck in Sacramento, there is some evidence that Landry could be another good fit for the Thunder's needs. He has good size at 6'9" and 250 lbs, and is a little bit older (27) than the Thunder's nucleus, so he would bend the average age upward. He isn't wowing people this year, which means his going rate might be a bit deflated. His rebounding is a bit suspect though.

Shane Battier ($7.3M) - Mr. Battier would make an excellent acquisition to the Thunder's roster. If the Rockets are willing to let him go, the Thunder should add him to their short list. He would bring a little bit of everything that the Thunder lack - game intelligence, court awareness, good defense, a reliable outside shot, and a public persona that would blend in perfectly with the organization.

Caron Butler ($10.6M) - He's currently overvalued, given his recent injury and the limits of his offensive game. I don't know how well he'd play along side Durant and Westbrook, since he's a bit of a black hole. However, he is a physical defensive presence on the perimeter. I got to watch him play quite a bit while he was in Washington, and I appreciated his physical approach to the game. He's too expensive now, but if the bottom falls out of his value due to the injury, he'd be a great player to pick up on the cheap.

Arron Afflalo ($2.9M) - At best, you could say the Daequan Cook experiment has earned an "incomplete." We'll never know until the Thunder give him consistent and reliable minutes. If they aren't sold on him though, Afflalo is a decent replacement who offers a similar skill set and better numbers. Outside scoring should not be placed at a premium, but if Harden ever moves to the starting line-up, a guy like Afflalo would be great to have to back him up.

Samuel Dalembert ($12.2M) - Dalembert's name is always floated about when teams go looking for available big men. However, what exactly are you getting with him? His best statistical season was a 10 and 10 three seasons ago with the 76ers. He hasn't averaged double figures in either category since then. It seems like it is a steep price to pay for such pedestrian numbers.

To conclude:

Love to see them in Thunder blue, but probably too expensive:

  • Nene
  • Chandler
  • Prince
  • Butler
  • Gasol
Thunder would stretch the bank, but it would be worth it:
  • Battier
  • West
  • Perkins
Best value selections:
  • Jordan
  • Landry
  • Afflalo
Don't touch them:
  • Dalembert
  • Any other swing player that the Thunder may be considering